Dave Phinney on Why Now?

Photographer: Margaret Pattillo

Napa Valley Winemaker, Dave Phinney, has always had a constant in his life: Agriculture. So when he opened The Savage & Cooke Distillery on historic Mare Island off the coast of San Francisco, and proximate to Napa Valley, it exemplified the natural evolution of the creative mind.

In a recent interview, Dave told Bonfort’s that his move into spirits was a logical progression, “We were already in the alcohol space and knew the distribution model. There’s a standing joke that when I’m not making wine, I’m making wine. Now that’s moved into other areas like bourbon and whiskey, and I’m really excited about that. My hobby became my profession,” he says.

Dave’s style is one where he looks at the source, before he looks at the end product, contrary to how most brands are dreamt up these days. Burning Chair Bourbon and Second Glance American Whiskey source water from his property in Alexander Valley and Dave grows his own grain. Despite the alcohol industry’s pleads over the last decade for Dave to create spirits, he took his time until all the elements fell into place. “I just can’t get interested in doing things purely for return on investment. It has to be genuine development, and all the circumstances have to be right, and that’s exactly what happened here. We want to keep having fun”.

The decision to locate the distillery on Mare Island was due to its fascinating history as a naval shipyard, the plethora of space, stunning brownstone buildings and its proximity to both the Napa Valley and San Francisco. Savage & Cooke will distill, age and bottle a range of brown spirits including Bourbon, Whiskey and Rye. Dave will craft offerings in the style that he appreciates most; complex flavors, concentration, balanced oak influence and lushness.

The spirits created there are Ayate Reposado, Ayate Añejo, Second Glance American Whiskey and Burning Chair Bourbon.

All the bottles were custom molded and the packaging is designed to draw attention while on the shelf, and appeal to a broad consumer base. “We realize that indecisive, younger people might gravitate to our packaging, and that there’s a feminine quality too, and at the same time any 60-year old male stockbroker-type, whiskey drinker would welcome these bottles into his collection to,” explains Dave. “We don’t chase an image. Much like the liquid itself, it all has to happen naturally, and we usually end up going with what we just like ourselves. We hope others like it too, but there’s no manipulative angle to the appeal.”

When asked what is the main difference between working in the wine industry and the spirits’ category, Dave says, “The work-withs. When doing market visits you do your sales and marketing presentation, have a sip. Meet with key accounts, have a sip. Go for dinner, have a few glasses. When that’s wine, it’s no problem, when it’s tequila and whiskey, it’s another story. I’ve learned to ‘not’ taste every time a buyer or distributor rep does. And, yes, I learned it the hard way.”

 

The Mixologists

Moses LaBoy – Beverage Director of Craveable Hospitality Group at David Burke Kitchen

Moses LaBoy

 Ayate Pink Panther 

  • 1.5 oz Ayate
  • .5 oz Simple
  • .5 oz Fresh Lime
  • .5 oz Becherovka
  • 2 oz Q Grapefruit Soda
  • Salt/Pink Peppercorn Rim

Method: 

Add all ingredients into shaking tin, except for Q grapefruit soda. Shake till cold. Double strain into Collins glass, over long/Collins ice cube.

Burning Mint

  • 2 oz Burning Chair Bourbon
  • 1 oz Rhubarb Sweetener
  • .5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • Fresh Mint

Method: 5/6 mint leaves bottom of double rocks glass or julep cup. Add sweetener and chartreuse. Very gently muddle (just to open mint oils) fill halfway with crushed ice. Add bourbon top with crushed ice, garnish with mint bushel.

Niccole Trzaska –  Drinks by Niccole, Savage & Cooke Ambassador

Niccole Trzaska.

Supreme Summer 

  • 1.75 oz Second Glance Whiskey
  • .25 oz Almond Syrup
  • .25 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1.25 oz Pineapple juice

Method: Shake and strain over fresh ice

Garnish: Pineapple slice & leaf top with grated nutmeg

The Pear Chair 

  • 1.75 oz Burning Chair Bourbon
  • 1.25 oz Ginger Beer
  • .50 oz Pear Puree
  • .25 oz Lemon juice

Method: Shake and strain all ingredients and top with ginger beer.

Garnish: Bourbon poached pear and cocktail cherry.

Lucinda Sterling – Bartender and Managing Partner of Middle Branch

Lucinda Sterling

Toque de Sol

  • 1.5 oz Ayate Reposado
  • .5 oz Luxardo Aperitivo
  • 1 oz *Lemon Shrub (see recipe below)
  • Orange wedge

Method: Shake with ice. Strain into a double rocks glass and serve with ice.

*For Lemon Shrub

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 1 part agave
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • Mix and add several pieces of fresh cut lemon peels (with minimal rind).
  • Heat on stove just until boiling or temperature of 212 F. Immediately remove from heat. Let stand until cool. Transfer into a mason jar and refrigerate until use.

Reign in Portugal 

  • 2 oz Burning Chair Bourbon
  • .75 oz Madeira
  • .25 oz Green Chartreuse
  • Orange and Angostura bitters

Method: Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a coupe, garnish with an orange twist.

Jared Bailey – Cocktail Aficionado at Soho Cigar Bar

Jared Bailey

Articles of Style

  • 1.5 oz Ayate Reposado
  • 1 oz Pineapple Juice
  • .5 oz Honey Syrup
  • 3 dash Angostura Bitters

Method: Shake, strain over ice into a rocks glass, float with ginger beer, garnish with a skewered cherry.

Concessions 

  • 2 oz Second Glance Whiskey
  • Dash salt
  • 4 dashes Chocolate Bitters
  • 1oz Honey Syrup

Method: Stir, strain over ice into a cinnamon-rimmed glass.

Photo Credits:  Images of Jared Bailey, Moses LaBoy, and Lucinda Sterling taken by Margaret Pattillo. Images of Nicole Trzaska taken by Brent A. Miller

 

The Portfolio

Ayate Añejo, 40% Alc., SRP $95

Location: The agave fields are located in highlands of Jalisco at an elevation of 7000 feet. The cool nights, warm days and iron rich soils provide ideal growing conditions.

Agave Selection: Rosendo Ramirez Senior oversees the harvest and hand selects only the most pristine, mature agaves. Jimadors skillfully remove all of the green leaves down to the heart of the piñas so that only the dense, succulent, sugar-rich core remains. The agaves range in age from six to eight years old.

Cooking: The agave piñas are cut into four segments using a proprietary process, then slowly steamed over an extended period of time to coax out the sweet juices.

Distillation: Distillation takes place in handmade, traditional copper pot stills.

Barrel Aging: Twelve months of aging including two months in new American oak barrels, four months in used French oak barrels and finally finished for six months in our Chardonnay barrels.

Water: Pristine, pure water is sourced from a natural spring located on our property. This water is used for production and proofing, and is of such high quality that it undergoes no filtration.

Tasting Notes: Aromatically intense with notes of caramel, butterscotch, dried fruits and toasty oak. Impressive complexity with flavors of dark chocolate, toffee, butter and sweet spices. This distinctive Añejo has a velvety soft and silky texture, full body, extraordinary finish and is best enjoyed neat in a snifter.

 

Ayate Reposado 40% Alc., SRP $65

Location: The agave fields are located in highlands of Jalisco at an elevation of 7000 feet. The cool nights, warm days and iron rich soils provide ideal growing conditions.

Agave Selection: Rosendo Ramirez Senior oversees the harvest and hand selects only the most pristine, mature agaves. Jimadors skillfully remove all of the green leaves down to the heart of the piñas so that only the dense, succulent, sugar-rich core remains. The agaves range in age from six to eight years old.

Cooking: The agave piñas are cut into four segments using a proprietary process, then slowly steamed over an extended period of time to coax out the sweet juices.

Distillation: Distillation takes place in handmade, traditional copper pot stills.

Barrel Aging: Eight months of aging including four months in new American oak barrels followed by four months in our Chardonnay barrels.

Water: Pristine, pure water is sourced from a natural spring located on our property. This water is used for production and proofing and is of such high quality that it undergoes no filtration.

Tasting Notes: Appealing and inviting aromas of lime, grapefruit, agave and fresh cut grass. A satisfying array of flavors including stone fruit, Meyer lemon, melon, ginger and vanilla bean. A balance of richness and freshness, this is a polished and pure Reposado best served on the rocks or in specialty cocktails.

 

Second Glance, 44% Alc., SRP $38

Distinctive and pronounced, this is the first release of Dave Phinney’s highly anticipated five-year-old American Whiskey.

Sourcing: Each barrel is hand-selected for its unique attributes by Dave. The youngest Whiskey in
the blend is five years old. Tiny lots are procured from Kentucky and each barrel brings a desired characteristic to the final blend.

Barrels: Aged for a minimum of five years in ex-Bourbon barrels and then uniquely finished in wine barrels from Dave’s Napa Valley Cabernet projects.

Water: The mature Whiskey is titrated to 88 proof with pure, pristine water from Dave’s high elevation property in Alexander Valley in Northern California.

Mash Bill: 95% Corn, 4% Rye, 1% Malted Barley

Tasting Notes: The first impression is rich and bold with aromas of maple wood, cardamom, buttery toast and black cherries. Impressive intensity on the palate with a plethora of honey, caramel, hazelnut and baked dark fruits. The finish is layered and complex.

 

The Burning Chair, 44% Alc., SRP $55

Intense and expressive, this is the first release of Dave Phinney’s highly anticipated four-year-old Bourbon.

Sourcing: Each barrel is hand-selected for it’s unique attributes by Dave. The youngest Bourbon in the blend is four years old. Tiny lots are procured from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. Each barrel brings something special to the final blend.

Barrels: Aged for a minimum of four years in new charred American oak barrels and then uniquely finished in wine barrels from Dave’s Napa Valley Cabernet projects.

Water: The mature Bourbon is titrated to 88 proof with pure, pristine water from Dave’s high elevation property in Alexander Valley in Northern California.

Mash Bill: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley

Tasting Notes: Aromatically intriguing with brown sugar, caramel, butterscotch and toasty oak. The palate is smooth and lush with loads of vanilla bean, baking spices, maple and baked apples. The finish is long and exciting, begging for another sip.

 

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Natasha Swords
Natasha Swords

Natasha Swords is an accomplished editor and writer with 20+ years of creative composition, reporting and management. She hails from Dublin Ireland where she held the position of Editor at Jemma Publications. Natasha honed her editorial skills by delivering engaging content on a wide range of topics, before finally focusing on the alcohol beverage and cannabis industries. She is Editor-in-Chief at Bonfort’s Wine and Spirits Journal as well as Drink me Magazine, where she leads all editorial content from story-idea generation to commissioning freelance writers and photographers. She also heads up CannEpoch, a lifestyle publication for the newly cannabis curious. In 2018, Natasha launched Bonfort’s Wine and Spirits Journal from inception, as well as the Bonfort’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a top-tier industry event connecting leading brands with key buyers. Steeped in the alcohol industry media, she was previously editor of Off-License Magazine, California Beverage News and Patterson’s California Beverage Journal (now Tasting Panel Magazine), and ran corporate communications for a number of alcohol supplier companies including TGIC (now Guarachi Wine Partners) and distributor, TITAN Wine and Spirits.

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